I believe in our busy lifestyles we all choose our priorities and teach our children what we know to be essential. If we can be honest though, there are surely certain things we can be more diligently teaching by example, and not tolerating anything less.
One of these, being manners.
We cannot afford to be indifferent. Look around you. I'm sure we've all noticed the decline in family values and morality in the world. I wonder what ever happened to:
- "Yes/no, ma'am/sir."
- "Thank you."
- "May I?"
- Eating dinner together at the table, not bedrooms or computer desk
- The fear of talking back instead of muttering, "Whatever."
- Tucking your shirt in.
- Dressing modestly.
- Speaking properly instead of slang and/or text talk ("OMG", for example).
- Eat at the kitchen table- We all have all day to be about our business. We need to make meals an intimate time to share with family. Avoid eating at the desk, living room, or bedrooms whenever the family is home together. No technology, (phones, tablets, etc.) unless it is a movie night.
- Give Short Lessons- Every day is full of opportunities to demonstrate and teach good manners. Our kids see us interact with others quite often. Explain the importance of greeting people and using correct language. I must give my kids quite a few lessons every day as it unfolds. Today we touched on the subject of respect as my niece playfully said something that is permissible between friends, but not for her to say to me, as her aunt. Many times we let these little things go because they're funny or "not a big deal." In reality, they are a big deal if not dealt with right away. Our kids need to know joking around a certain way is fine among friends, but respect for others, such as teachers, parents, aunts/uncles, elders, and so on, should be different. Once you let one slide, it becomes easier to let the next few slide. Before we know it, they're quite comfy in our laid back relationship and we rob them of learning a very needed side of respect. On a few other occasions, I've picked up trash on the street and quickly explained to the kids how we're all responsible for keeping our communities clean, whether or not we made the mess ourselves. Again, there are many opportunities on any given day to give lessons.
- Ask questions- The lessons continue. When your child makes a mistake or acts/speaks in a disrespectful manner, ask them something simple such as, "What would be a more respectful way for you to have asked that?" You're not accusing them and they're less likely to get defensive. Stand your ground, but remain calm and respectful yourself.
- Own up to your mistakes- We are not perfect. Are you surprised? So was I, but that's the hard truth. Another hard truth is that we, too, must swallow our pride and admit we were wrong when we are wrong. This is vital in teaching our children humility and taking responsibility. I'm almost glad when the children witness a slip of mine, whether it's frustration on the road or a smart remark. It holds me accountable and I quickly talk to them and apologize. I say something along the lines of, "Kids, sorry you heard me say that (or saw me do that). I was wrong because _____. I should have _____ instead."
- Consequences- We don't take away privileges because we're meanies and we don't punish our children because we want to see them yell or be sad. We do it because we see the value in facing consequences; it teaches lessons. We have to be fair. We have to have rules in our home. If we don't have rules established for them to follow, we can't be too upset when they act up. WE are the authority in our home, after God. WE establish rules and enforce them. But we have to be fair, clear, firm, and consistent.
- give warnings
- start with losing one privilege, one day, and increase if offense is repeated
- follow through
- talk with your spouse so that you're on the same page
- pray with them
- tell them you love them
- explain how God also has us all face consequences for our actions and rules are good for us.
- No bargaining punishments or talking back.
- No name calling- if they do, they must say three nice things to the person they just offended.
- No hitting-, if they do, they must write a letter of apology to the person they hit.
- No continuous arguing- if they do, they may have to walk around holding hands for half an hour with each other. By the time the half hour is over, they're laughing and having a great time trying to stay connected.
- No yelling at one another out of anger- if they do, they must excuse themselves to another room and may not rejoin a game or event until they are calm and ready to talk.
- No fighting for the "bigger piece"- at lunch or dessert time, sometimes they want to be the first to choose so they can choose the "bigger piece." If they do, I let them be last and teach how important it is to put others first in certain situations.
- No text talking (I'll "BRB," "JK", etc.)- If they do, they must recite the 10 commandments for us all to hear and remember.
Let's maintain an atmosphere of peace and respect in our homes. Let's give them something to respect and also teach them to respect, whether or not they feel the other person deserves it. Respecting and forgiving others shows who WE are and WHOSE we are. We belong to the King of Kings and we must represent Him well. Glory to Him.